Zelador was born March 16 2004. He’s a Lusitano. This breed comes from Portugal and the Portuguese assign a letter of the alphabet to each year for naming foals. The Portuguese alphabet does not have the letters W and Y. 2004 was the Z year. I remember telling Bill, “Perhaps we should wait a year and get an ‘a’ horse. There would be a better chance of being able to pronounce the horse’s name.”

Zelador means: caretaker.

Zelador is a type A personality. He listens carefully and tries really hard to figure things out (on the ground). Under saddle he’s been strong-willed and opinionated since day one. Slowly but surely he’s accepted walking peacefully with a person on his back, then trotting without being agitated. A week before he turned six years of age this March he finally was calm under saddle at the canter. It took three long years to get him to this point.

Zelador has been described as a genius. I often think this is a bit “funny”. But when I work with other horses I start to see just how easily Zelador learns and how many words he understands. I was trying to count the words and phrases last week and came up with 80 off the top of my head.

To teach him something new is very easy. He has such a history of learning which makes the new trick “a piece of cake”.

Quite often people ask what I want to do with him. My answer is: everything. This horse can do anything as long as I present it correctly. When we were putting together the hulahoop routine he never shied away from them. The hoops bounced off him on a regular basis and he calmly accepted them. Last week Bill threw a hoop to me, it bounced out of my hand, bumped Zelador’s forehead and settled around his head like a big necklace. He didn’t spook. He made a tiny “grunt” sound and stood quietly.

Zelador is bold. He absolutely has to be the first horse when we’re trail riding. He goes through the water first. He’s the first one to go through the gate that he’s stood for me to open. He is in charge of the world, yet listens to me, looks to me to see what I want.

An example is the big ball. He loves it and charges it. BUT I can say his name and he spins away from the big ball and comes to me.

How has Zelador affected my life? Every time I’m with him (on the ground or on his back) he’s teaching me things. He’s testing me to see if I’m reading him correctly. He’s opened the world of liberty and trick training. I never would have believed that I could teach a horse to do the dozens of things he happily does. He’s amazing and keeps me in line. He’s not lovey-dovey and sweet unless he wants to be. Most of the time he’s challenging me to be smarter, quicker, quieter, more thoughtful, more precise…